The current sexual development literature has done much to elucidate the factors contributing to sexual risk-taking in African American youth. However, there is a need to expand research approaches to focus on other healthy, non-behavioral sexual outcomes and the factors that predict them. Addressing this gap, this dissertation hypothesized that certain sexual messages would impact a young woman’s feeling and beliefs surrounding her sexual experiences. To further discern the development of this relationship over time, two separate studies were conducted with two age groups of African American girls and young women. Study 1 was comprised of 334 emerging adults (ages 18-24) enrolled in a large Midwestern university. Participants completed measures assessing amount and content of sexual messages received by parents and peers, sexual assertiveness, condom-use self efficacy, and their feelings about their level of sexual experience (positive, negative, and shameful). Findings revealed that both parents and peers communicate messages emphasizing sexual agency and a relational orientation to a similar degree. As expected, exposure to agency messages from parents was associated with more positive affect, sexual assertiveness, and condom self-efficacy. However, initial analyses indicated that many associations differed depending on participants’ virginity status. For example, virgins receiving sex is natural messages from their peers reported higher negative sexual affect; conversely, coitally experienced participants receiving abstinence messages from peers evidenced higher levels of negative affect. In Study 2, 73 Midwestern high school students (aged 14-18 years) completed measures assessing all of the same communication and subjective sexual outcomes. Results indicated that although no messages were associated with sexual assertiveness, greater communication with parents was connected with positive affect and any communication with peers was linked with negative affect. Finally, sex positive messages were associated with greater levels of condom-use self efficacy. Findings across studies indicate that African American girls and young women are receiving a wide range of sexual communication and that several components of this communication appear to facilitate their ability to negotiate desires and needs with a sexual partner, feel better and less shameful about their sexuality, and be comfortable in making use of prophylactics
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